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Simple Scanner Camera 


Make Projects 

build, hack, tweak, share, discover. 

Simple Scanner Camera 

-/ TOOLS: 

Computer (1) 

Written By: Mike Golembewski 


Canon CanoScan (1) 

Foamcore board (1) 
/ used Gatorboard. 

Cardboard (1) 

Heavy cardstock (1) 

Tracing paper (1) 

Duct tape (1) 

Magnifying glass (1) 


Ruler (1) 

Hobby knifed) 


Several years ago, I built my first scanner camera. The idea was simple: I would use an 
ordinary flatbed scanner with a homemade large-format camera. The camera would focus 
the image onto the scanner bed in place of photo paper or film. I expected this to be a quick 
little art project made with a cardboard box, the cheapest flatbed scanner I could find, and 
lots of duct tape. 

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Simple Scanner Camera 

A scanner's image sensor captures a scene slowly, line by line. But when I got it all to work, 
the results were wonderful. 

Stationary objects photographed normally, but moving objects appeared twisted and 
distorted into fascinating shapes. At first I thought there was something wrong with my 
contraption, but then I realized that the movement of the scan head was meshing with the 
movement in the recorded scene. 

The distortion is similar to the effect created by moving an original on a photocopier mid- 
copy, but extended into the real world. 

Making and using a scanner camera is a lot of fun as a technical exercise, but more 
importantly to me, it provides an interesting photographic perspective on time and 

Here's how to build 2 versions: a simple cardboard-and-duct-tape one that keeps the 
scanner intact, and a warranty-voider version that's more portable and flexible, and takes 
sharper pictures. 

Step 1 — Build the baseboard. 

• Cut a piece of black foamcore that 
fits exactly over your scanner's 
glass bed, then cut a 7" square 
hole out of the center. This will be 
the baseboard for your camera. 

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Simple Scanner Camera 

Step 2 — Make the boxes. 

• Make 2 boxes that slide together for focusing. Using cardboard and glue, make a 7"x7" 
inner box with both ends open, and then an outer box with a lid on top, slightly larger than 
the inner box, so that they nest snugly together. Line all box edges with duct tape. 

• Cut a 3 1 /2"-diameter hole in the lid of the outer box. 

Step 3 — Make the lens board and aperture cards. 

• Remove the lens from your magnifying glass and cut a hole in the center of a 6"x6" 
cardboard square to hold it. Tape the edges of the lens securely into place on the 
cardboard. This is your lens board. Out of heavy cardstock, cut a set of covers for the 
lens, with different-sized holes in the middle. 

• These are the aperture cards, which you'll tape over the lens to control how much light 
gets into the camera, just like an iris in a regular camera. 

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Simple Scanner Camera 

Step 4 — Assemble the camera. 

• Fit one end of the inner box into the 
baseboard and duct tape it in place 
from the inside. 

• Slip the outer box over the inner 
box and make sure you can slide it 
back and forth. Tape the lens board 
to the outer box with the lens 
centered over the 3V2" hole. 

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Simple Scanner Camera 

Step 5 — Take some photos. 

Your scanner camera is ready to 
go! To focus it, tape 

a piece of tracing paper over the 
hole at the back of the baseboard, 
then point the lens toward a brightly 
lit scene. Slide the outer box back 
and forth until the image comes 
into focus on the tracing paper. 
With my 2V2" magnifying glass 
lens, I needed a focal distance 
(distance between lens and image) 
of about 7" to 12" for objects in the 
same room. 

Tape the camera to the front of 
your scanner and start up your 
imaging application. Use the 
Preview button for fine-tuning the 
focus, and when you're ready, click 
Scan to take a picture. To adjust 
the image brightness, try different 
lens aperture cards. 

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Simple Scanner Camera 

Step 6 

• Simple scanner camera photographs: Traffic study at Notting Hill Gate, London; 
Moreen and Rowan, Brighton; traffic study at Queensgate, London. 

This project first appeared in MAKE Volume 14 . page 78. 

This document was last generated on 2012-11-02 06:48:49 AM. 

© Make Projects 

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